Combining the obsessive with the erotic can often yield unbridled cinematic sleaze, but 2000’s Malèna largely opted against leaning into its salacious elements in order to tell a more dramatic story, albeit one that features an almost alarming amount of both figurative and literal masturbatory content.
Despite failing to resonate with critics, the film’s 54 percent Rotten Tomatoes score is handily dwarfed by its 84 percent user rating from upwards of 25,000 votes, while Malèna also ended up landing two Academy Award nominations for Best Cinematography and Best Original Score, as well as a Golden Globe nod for Best Foreign Language Film.
The ethereal Monica Bellucci plays the title role, a war widow in 1940s Italy who becomes a figure of obsession, jealousy, envy, and occasionally fury for almost everyone in the sleepy Sicily village she calls home. 13 year-old Renato is transfixed from the second he lays eyes on her, and as the story moves through the years, he constantly wrestles with his desire to insert himself into her life, or to remain beguiled from afar.
No stranger to being objectified throughout her 30+ year career, Bellucci unsurprisingly gives a fantastic central performance as the troubled woman suffering in the public eye, with streaming subscribers now finding themselves captivated by Malèna more than two decades on from its release.
Per FlixPatrol, the opinion-splitting awards season sleeper hit has found success on the iTunes Top 10 in several countries dotted around the world, an unexpected surge for an Italian-language dramedy that didn’t even make it to $15 million at the global box office.